Attorneys spar over meaning of text messages in Kilpatrick case

(WXYZ) - Lawyers in the Kilpatrick corruption trial spent a lot of the day arguing about the exact meaning of text messages.

EPA Special Agent Carol Paskiewicz faced hours of cross examination Thursday, as the lawyers defending the members of the so-called Kilpatrick Enterprise tried to combat potentially damaging text messages.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, his long-time friend Bobby Ferguson, and ex- water dept chief Victor Mercado are all on trial, accused of bid rigging, extortion, and racketeering.

"The government is cherry picking the evidence and attempting to put a case together. But when you cross examine the witnesses and they have to eat the words in their own documents, it sheds a completely different light on the case," said Bobby Ferguson's lawyer Mike Rataj.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors and Agent Paskiewicz showed the jury several text messages that they allege show Ferguson, Kilpatrick, and Mercado were scheming to get Ferguson's companies lucrative water department deals.

"These text messages are open to multiple interpretations. And as I asked Agent Paskiewicz if she's a mind reader, and she's not a mind reader, okay? So this whole exercise the government's going through, to me, is really a waste of time," said Rataj.

One text message was hotly contested Thursday. It's from Bobby Ferguson to Kilpatrick aide, Derrick Miller on Feb 18th, 2004.

It says at 1:29pm, "I him with the boss this is real urgent."

Federal prosecutors suggested Ferguson meant to say ‘I am with' Kilpatrick at the time of the message – allegedly conspiring on water department deals.

But Thursday, Kilpatrick attorney Jim Thomas showed the jury Kilpatrick's official mayoral schedule from that day, which had him scheduled to be at Gompers Elementary School from 1:30-2:30pm – the same time as that text.

Thomas also got Agent Paskiewicz to admit a few times her testimony from yesterday was wrong.

"I think we take each day as it comes, and we try to end each day on a positive note. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. But we clearly have a message. And hopefully the jury is listening and that's all you can ask for at this point," Thomas told 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo.

Victor Mercado's attorneys spent a long time with Agent Paskiewicz, asking her about the professional nature of Mercado's texts to Kilpatrick as they tried to show the jury that Mercado wasn't always inside the Kilpatrick inner circle.

This is a message Mercado sent to the mayor while he was on the scene of a massive sinkhole in Macomb County in 2004. It says, quote, "15 Mile Road Sewer Collapse fyi I am at site Vic."

"The texts from him to the mayor are all about business, about things like the sinkhole in Macomb County," said John Minock.

But one text could cause problems for Mercado – the feds allege he was conspiring with the former mayor to get Ferguson in on a water main repair contract.

It says: "Just thought of something. Trying locate evaluations on contr [contractors] from city depts. To see for grounds. Also may look into delaying work. Hopefully wii have more info tomorrow"

"I'm not even sure he remembers after 6-8 years," said Minock.

Expect the feds to hammer home the extortion allegations on Friday. Thomas Hardiman is expected to take the witness stand. Hardiman owns A & H Contractors, Inc. and partnered with Avinash Rachmale's Lakeshore Engineering Services. According to the indictment, Ferguson extorted both contractors. 

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